Arizona immigration law gets high marks

The controversial Arizona immigration law received high marks from registered voters in the latest Qunnipiac University poll, released Tuesday.

48 percent said they want their state to pass legislation similar to Arizona's, while 35 percent said they do not. Overall, 51 percent approve of the law, opposed to 31 percent who disapprove.

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The law, which Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed in April, has sparked a heated debate over the direction of the nation's immigration policy.

Under the law, state and local law enforcement officials are required to check the documentation of people they suspect are in the country illegally if they are stopped for other reasons. 

"The Arizona immigration law has emerged as a major divide in the country, but the numbers are on the side of those supporting it," pollster Peter A. Brown said. "The strong plurality who says they would like a similar law in their own state probably portends the law will be an issue in many, many campaigns this November across the country. Depending on how those elections and court challenges come out, copy-cat Arizona laws could be a hot issue in state capitals after November."

To an extent, support for the law cuts across party lines: 57 percent of independents said they support the law, along with 28 percent of Democrats. Seventy-five percent of Republicans said they back the measure.

The law, however, has caused a divide between lawmakers in Congress.

Brewer and the law's supporters in Congress say the measure is necessary to stem the tide of violence and drug cartel activity that has spilled across the border from Mexico. Backers say the federal government has failed to enforce immigration law and that the state needed to take matters into its own hands.

Opponents of the law say it will infringe on the civil liberties of Latinos because it will lead to racial profiling. They have called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.